I think I may have fallen back in love with flying. And as a result I might be able to explain my recurrent dreams with airplanes crashing all over the place. I was three months old when I first set foot on a plane – or was carried into one, to be more precise. According to my mum I did not cry. I can’t remember that, nor can I recall the first time I flew as a kid. The first time I do remember I was five and alone, feeling so proud of myself (that might explain a lot, actually). It was the beginning of summer, and my mum was sending me off to my grandparents in Vitoria, so I could be with my cousins. (I used to think that she did it just because I loved going there and being with the rest of the family, and because she was not yet on vacation. But could it be that they were already fighting? Why can’t I remember the fighting? Was there any fighting? If there wasn’t any fighting, then why ? I know why, but still.)
Anyway, I had that huge identification tag hanging off my neck and I remember the stewardess telling me to press a button if I needed anything. “Can I have a coke?” I asked. “As many as you like”, she answered. And at that point I knew it was going to be a fun day. “Can you give me a piece of paper to draw?” I continued. “Sure.” And then this older man in a suit arrived and sat right in front of me. I’ve always liked older man in suits, maybe because of my grandfather. And I’ve always enjoyed talking to older people, man or woman. To be complimented on how “mature” and “eloquent” I was for such a young kid made me feel superior, intelligent and happy. I wanted to fit in with the adults, being a kid was just not for me (though, mature as I was, I knew I had to hang out with people my own age too, and I did). But to me, fun was had when I was allowed to attend lunches and dinners at expensive restaurants with my uncles and aunts. That was bliss. To show them I could behave like an adult. To show them I could use the fork with my left hand. The main reason I started drinking so young was to show everyone how grown up I was. Why was I so obsessed with it? Maybe because for a very long time I was the youngest person in my family, and I was constantly having to come to terms with not being able to do stuff because I “wasn’t old enough”. Or maybe I was born with an old soul. Being a mature, responsible adult has always been my biggest goal in life. Which is why I planned most of the very irresponsible things I did as a teenager. There has always been a certain method to my recklessness.
But let’s go back to that first plane. The businessman in a suit soon started chatting to me, and boy was I pleased. He asked me what any adult would ask a five-year-old if she was flying without her family: “Are you scared?” “No”, I replied, with a hint of disdain in my voice. “I was only three months old the first time I flew”. And we went on chatting. I had a blast, and when my grandma picked me up at the airport I introduced her to the new friend I had just made. She found it hilarious and apologized to the nice Sir for having to put up with my questions for an hour and a half.
Fast forward a couple of years, and this desire to look like an adult turned flying into something mechanic, emptied of pleasure. I never chose the window seat, “because corridor is much more practical”, I always made a face when the person on the window seat decided to open it during the day, because it would “disturb my reading”, and I would always reply with a loud “no thank you” if someone asked if I wanted the window open. I’d never accept the food, except on really long flights, and I would always bring the most adult-looking books with me. Flying became dull.
But today I chose a window seat, and I do not know what possessed me. I knew I would be arriving in Vitoria as the sun was setting, and I just did it, I chose the window seat. And I didn’t bring a book either. I brought my Ipod, with some new music I had downloaded for the weekend. And so it happened, that very cliché moment when the right song comes up at the right time (and you’re sure your Ipod is trying to make you cry). The song that did was Likky Li’s “I follow rivers”, and this would be a good moment for you to go put it on.
While we cut through a very cloudy sky, the resemblance of this geography with the one down on solid ground strikes me – there’s another earth up here. Mountains, plateaus, canyons, valleys – all white, pink and blue. The world with a different density. Then I remember that about the same time I took that first solo flight to Vitoria, I was obsessed with a book about dolls waking up in the middle of the night and flying to a secret place – something like the doll world – which was up in the clouds. I kept trying to stay awake to see if I could spot them boarding the flying carriage that took them there. I even left a letter to the Queen Doll at the balcony one time, requesting a visit, but that never happened (though the wind carried it away, so I was pretty sure she had gotten it, but maybe we just didn’t speak the same language). When I was 11 and read the first Harry Potter book I was sure someone had made a mistake, and my letter from Hogwarts would come the following year. Hermione and I would be best friends, since we were both brought up as muggles. I fell in love with my best friends recurrently because of Dawson and Joey, and I will never quit hoping I’ll meet Bill Murray as soon as I land in Tokyo for the first time. I have our story all figured out.
So I have fallen back in love with flying, but I still can’t understand what makes me dream of the end of the world by falling planes. Somewhere in here lies a really good explanation to my obsession with looking like and adult, thought. For as long as I keep making up scenarios in which I hang out with Rory at Yale, I shall never feel like one.